Sunday, June 28, 2009

The New Priorities of Government (Benton County)

Benton County Judge Dave Bisbee
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Benton County Judge David Bisbee is in the midst of controversy again. This time, the subject is over how certain federal grants were spent.

When the county first got a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Judge Bisbee told folks he would use it to start a “reverse-911” service in the county. A reverse-911 system is when the government calls the residents of a given area to warn of an emergency situation. As an example, when a tornado is about to hit the ground the county can mass-phone call people in the projected path of the funnel and warn them to take cover. If a dam breaks people in the flood plain below the dam can be warned to seek high ground. If dangerous criminals are loose in a neighborhood, residents can be warned.

It sounds like a good idea, and the Mayor’s of both Pea Ridge and Bella Vista were looking forward to the implementation of this economical life-saving system. One of them asked Judge Bisbee about the status of the project at a recent meeting. According to reports in the Benton County Dailey Record, they were surprised to learn that the project had been cancelled and the grant money instead used to mount security cameras around the county court-house. The terms of the grant were loose enough so that this was not a violation of its conditions.

Where do I begin when I write to you about the objections I have with this whole mess? Let me start with the existence of the so-called “Department of Homeland Security”, which is turning into an expensive bureaucracy which wastes tremendous resources monitoring law-abiding citizens while our borders remain far too open to illegal immigration. The 2nd Amendment was the original Department of Homeland Security for the United States, and it worked very well until our ruling class decided that there were so many places that the common law-abiding citizen should not be permitted to bear arms. The 2nd Amendment was a lot less expensive than our current DHS, and it did not violate anyone’s privacy either.

Protecting innocent life should be the first duty of any legitimate government, but the moving of funds from a reverse-911 system to more security cameras on government buildings is a perfect example of the government’s changing priorities. Government at all levels is increasingly less interested in protecting the lives and property of the common citizen and more and more concerned with protecting itself, its physical plant, and its agents.

When it does expend resources on what it says is our “security”, such expenditures almost always take the form of increased monitoring of the local population and/or restrictions on what formerly were our freedoms. Try to protest a President, any President, these days. You will be, under the excuse of “security”, herded into designated “protest zones” far out of eyeshot of the man himself. This is in direct violation of the Constitution, but if you take it to court a Federal judge will tell you that the Federal government is within its legitimate powers to do so.

I also object to the fact that this change was made without the input or even knowledge of the mayors in this county- mayors who were originally led to believe that the reverse-911 system was coming. I would also like to know where the data from the cameras ends up. Is it kept here locally, or does it go to some DHS collection point? Did the real impetus for this change came from Washington, or did Judge Bisbee make this change solely on his own initiative?

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